The Loma Prietan - November 2013

Chapter's Fracking Committee Hits the Ground Running

by Mike Kerhin and Nada Ballator

Fracking isn't happening just in Pennsylvania, where this photo is from.  It's happening here in California. Photo: Mark Schmerling, courtesy of the Sierra Club
Fracking isn't happening just in Pennsylvania, where this photo is from. It's happening here in California. Photo: Mark Schmerling, courtesy of the Sierra Club

The Chapter’s newly formed Fracking Action Committee has been busy.  To alert members of the public to the dangers of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) it made a presentation to residents in Hollister and attended a rally at the Pinnacles in September and attended the Global Frackdown 2 in Oakland in October. In November it is screening of Gasland II at the San Benito High School.

San Benito, the southernmost county in our Chapter’s territory, lies atop the vast Monterey Shale formation, which is believed to hold one of the world's largest onshore reserves of shale oil. Millions of dollars are at stake for energy companies looking to extract the fossil fuels from this area … as is the health of our local residents and environment. Fracking wells are drilled as much as a mile underground and injected with highly pressurized mixture of water, sand, and toxic chemicals to stimulate production. They use huge amounts of water. The poisonous fluids then must be removed and disposed of elsewhere. There’s the potential that the chemicals used may escape the well and contaminate groundwater and air around the site.

It’s Happening Here

The problems from fracking and other forms of excessive well stimulation are complex, political, and ongoing. The damages caused in other states, such as Pennsylvania and Colorado, are just beginning in California. This is no longer someone else’s problem; the fight is in our own backyard. Fracking is just one method of extraction is used in California. Cyclic steam injection and hydrofluoric acidulation are also on the table.

The Fracking Action Committee’s goals are to inform the general public and elected officials of the issues, recruit and organize Chapter members who are passionate about the cause, build coalitions with other like-minded community groups, and work towards developing anti-fracking ordinances or bans at the county and municipal levels.

Mike Kerhin leads the Chapter’s Fracking Action Committee; he has been active in the Chapter for seven years. Nada Ballator is a long-time Club member; retirement gives her more time to fight fracking dangers, promote public transportation, zero waste, and gardening.